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March 3, 2024
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Mavs-Wolves preview: The silver lining of injury situation


The Mavericks’ injury report has bordered on the absurd lately, like the proverbial saying that half the team is listed day to day.

But then, aren’t we all?

If you’re a glass-half-full person, though, you find reasons to be grateful that the Mavericks have had these various injuries and illnesses at this particular time.

They haven’t had the toughest of schedules lately. And that’s allowed them to win three of their last four games and five of their past eight – despite missing a slew of different players at different points in that stretch.

The Mavericks have not been anywhere close to healthy in the two games they’ve played so far against the Minnesota Timberwolves, who visit American Airlines Center at 6:30 p.m. Sunday.

Kyrie Irving missed both of the first two meetings and Luka Dončić missed the second meeting at Minnesota a few days after Christmas. It was the second night of back-to-back games.

But all of the injuries will have at least some beneficial residue.

As Utah coach Will Hardy said on the Mavericks’ visit there last week, a team has to be really, really good to “just throw a fastball every game.”

In other words, you can’t run the same stuff, feature the same players and hope that it works relentlessly. Even if you’re throwing that fastball with Luka and Kyrie.

That’s why having all the role players contributing in bigger roles during this injury spate is a blessing in disguise.

The confidence of these players is skyrocketing every time they get to produce in a more meaningful setting.

That’s how you get a near triple-double from Jaden Hardy and 14 points (on 7-of-8 shooting), five rebounds and five assists from Josh Green. Or 14 points from two-way player A.J. Lawson, who continues to show that he is well worth the contract he’s signed to.

All of it adds up to a team that has become a bit more intriguing with the absence of certain key stars.

When – if? – they get fully functional, it will be interesting to see what these Mavericks can accomplish moving forward.

But for now, it’s the more challenging meat of their seven-game home stand, which is off to a 2-0 start against the woeful Blazers. Now, the degree of difficulty rises substantially.

  • The Mavericks’ injury rundown: Dončić questionable with right ankle swelling, Grant Williams (right ankle), Markieff Morris (illness) and Richaun Holmes (personal) also questionable. Dereck Lively II (left ankle) is doubtful and Maxi Kleber (right small toe) and Dante Exum (right plantar fascia sprain) are out.
  • The Wolves had lost two in a row, but stopped that skid with a 122-95 whipping of Houston on Friday in the starter of a four-game trip. In that game, Anthony Edwards had 24 points, Karl-Anthony Towns had 22 points, eight rebounds and six assists and Naz Reid, who always seems to confound the Mavericks, had 16 points off the bench.
  • Edwards leads them at 26.5 points per game and Rudy Gobert is doing his usual thing with 12.6 points and 11.9 rebounds per game.
  • The Wolves are sort of the opposite of the offensive-minded Mavericks. Minnesota is No. 1 in the NBA in defensive rating, allowing 108.7 points per 100 defensive possessions.
  • Second-year guard Jaden Hardy is coming off perhaps his best game as a pro when he 19 points, nine rebounds and nine assists on Friday against Portland. In the past five games, he’s averaging nearly 15 points and shooting 13-of-35 from three-point range.

 

MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES (26-9) at MAVERICKS (21-15)

  • When/where: 6:30 p.m. Sunday, American Airlines Center, Dallas.
  • TV: Bally’s Sports Southwest.
  • Radio: 97.1 FM The Freak; 99.1 FM Zona MX (Spanish).

X: @ESefko





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